Thursday, October 30, 2008

"Poke-ins"


Nathan called pumpkins "poke-ins" until about last year. I still call him "poke-in" as a term of endearment. Each evening after kissing them goodnight, just before I close their bedroom door I call out , "Goodnight Poke-ins".
Benjamin, who has been seeing a speech language pathologist for two years, also calls them "poke-ins", and when I try to have him say it properly, he cocks his head to the side and says, duh Mommy, I just did.









Goodnight, Poke-ins.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bruiser Ben

Benjamin is five and of average height and weight. But he is a mighty tyke and can take down grown men. Here he demonstrates his technique on his big brother. Learn from the master!

New Glasses!

Today was the day we picked up Nathan's first pair of glasses! They are bifocals, with just a rectangle on the bottom that has a prescription and the rest are clear. They are only to be worn while reading or doing homework, not playing or walking around.
Trying to teach him to look through the rectangle was both hilarious and frustrating. Perhaps more frustrating than hilarious, but I'm trying to be optimistic that one day I'll look back on the two hours we spent trying to do his homework while wearing the glasses and laugh my head off.

Random Trip Photos

Nearly two hours into the drive, Ben announced that he felt like he was going to throw up. His face, including his lips, were paper white which was a frightening thing to behold. We took away his book and told him to look out the window. I crushed half a Benadryl, mixed it with some of Daddy's whipped cream from his Starbuck's Frappacino and told him to swallow it. Twenty minutes later he was sound asleep, drooling all over his hand.


Driving towards Las Vegas we are reminded why we love California so much. It has everything. Beaches, mountains, deserts, miles of wide open spaces, cities, ranches, you name it.

Our hotel lobby had a large pond with koi fish and two Royal Swans named Elvis and Priscilla. The boys enjoyed watching them snooze, eat lettuce, and generally ignore all the guests at the hotel.


Outside the Monte Carlo where we saw the Lance Burton Magic Show. The weather this weekend was perfect, toasting warm during the day for swimming, and breezy and cool in the evenings for strolling down the Strip.


After all the glitz and glamour of the bright LED billboards in Vegas and at Stateline, this completely understated "Welcome to California" sign was underwhelming.

And what would a trip to Vegas be without the obligatory photo in front of the World's Largest Thermometer in Baker, CA be? Nothing I tell you. It used to be the home of the Bun Boy Restaurant, a name that brought fits of giggles to my little brother and I when we made this trip with our parents as children. Now there is just a small gift shop and gas station surrounded by fast food chains that have popped up in this desert depot.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Stage Magic


We took the boys to see Lance Burton, a family friendly classic magic show at the Monte Carlo. I personally was a bit freaked out by his billboards and posters which show a man who has either been airbrushed beyond recognition or is a disciple of Botox. But several people recommended it as one that the kids would love and since this trip was work related for Daddy's job on a magic show, it was an obvious choice.

True to the recommendations, it was a great show with lots of doves, ducks, and even a goose, always a kid pleaser. At one point he asked for kids to come up and help him with a trick, and an usher pointed at Nathan and told him to go up, which he enthusiastically did, along with a dozen other children. Lance commented that he liked Nathan's striped polo shirt, and said that stripes really make a person look tall. Then he said "See? Look how tall he looks compared to... her" and pointed at a tiny toddler who had come up with her big brother. Nathan laughed (along with everyone else). He got to help with a trick where Lance had a bird cage in his hands (with a parakeet inside) and told all the kids to put their hands on the cage. Then he counted to three and the bird cage disappeared. Afterward Nathan told us that maybe magic was real. He is a natural born skeptic who is constantly trying to figure out how things work. But he said that one moment his hand was on the cage, and the next minute it was completely gone, and surely magic can be the only explanation!

Nathan had a little taste of being on stage in front of 1,274 audience members and has now declared that he wants to be an actor. We'll see how many days that lasts!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Transformer Bed

In Las Vegas we stayed in a suite that had a bedroom with a king sized bed and a convertible sofa sleeper in the living room. Wise parents that we are, we excitedly told the boys that they got to sleep on a "Transformer" bed. They are currently obsessed with Transformers toys, so they were pretty excited when they heard this. When we pulled it out to make it into a bed or put it back into the couch, Mike made the requisite sound effects to go along with the transformation. They thought it was pretty cool!

The foam hands are some of the neat goodies Mike brought back for the boys from the LDI conference he was attending.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

KA

Friday night we all went to see Cirque Du Soleil's KA. The real star of this show is the set. It has a giant stage that rises in the air, spins around, and goes completely vertical, which the performers climb all over. I desperately wanted to go backstage and climb all over it myself! We've seen most of the Cirque shows in the past 10 or so years, and sadly I'd have to say that none were so memorable that I can quickly recall in detail what they were like. I think that KA will certainly be the exception to that, but only because of the industry we work in which makes us take note when something pushes the envelope technically. Nathan and Ben enjoyed the show so much, particularly a scene where hundreds of arrows were shot through the air. They both have asked if they can have their own bows and arrows for Christmas. They happily pointed out all the giant ads on the Strip that promoted KA. Here we are, treating the boys to late night ice cream after the show while Michael ate dinner and told us about all the amazing things he saw at the conference that day.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Las Vegas

We made it safe and sound! The drive seemed a LOT longer than it did back in college when we'd get off work on Friday and hit the road to Vegas and actually stay up until the sun came up... That seems like a lifetime ago! Ben had a bout with carsickness after spending an hour and a half coloring and writing in a notebook I gave him. He turned as white as paper, even his lips. It was quite frightening for a moment! No more reading in the car for Benjamin!

Mike is attending the LDI conference here, so the boys and I are playing all day and then meeting up with him for some shows in the evening. It's nice to have a change of pace, and the swimming pool and room service sure are swell!

I'll leave you with a view from the pool and a wish for a happy Friday!

Friday, October 24, 2008

TODAY!


Chris

Tomorrow Chris is graduating from one of his training programs! Yeah Chris! We wish we could be there to celebrate with him! Instead we are in Las Vegas where Michael is working and the boys and I are hanging out at the pool. For Chris, this graduation will mean a pay grade increase, which is always nice when you are a newlywed!

Here's another photo of Chris and his lovely bride, Alyssa.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

$5,000

This is what $5,000 cash in twenty dollar bills looks like:


Nathan said that would buy us at least one million video games! Which is funny considering he doesn't own any video games and wouldn't know how much they would cost. I think.

I'll bet you're wondering what's the story with the cash?

Here it goes. One of Mike's producers in New York is promoting a magician named Keith Barry who is opening a show at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas starting next week. As part of promoting the show, he taped an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, airing Thursday, October 23rd. Part of his act includes the use of $5,000 cash, which he says he will give away to the person whose mind he cannot read, or something along those lines. Keith is from Ireland and was catching a flight into Los Angeles and unable to get the cash himself. Mike's producers are in New York, and unable to get the cash here for the trick. So they called Mike to see if he could magically produce the 5K and get it to the set of Ellen. I laughed when Mike told me... after all, we, like the rest of the country and world, were hit by the recent roller coaster events in the financial world. Five thousand dollars might as well be five million dollars, right? But when I went through our accounts, I saw that we'd received payment on an invoice and that we didn't have to pay payroll or our quarterly payroll taxes until this Friday, so theoretically we did have the cash, if only for the day they needed to use it as a prop. I did throw in one caveat... as the owner of our production company (51% majority) I had to accompany the cash along with Michael.

I have to tell you that the bank was not pleased about our withdrawing the money (and in twenty dollar bills no less!) and did everything they could to stall the actual moment when they handed us the cash. It was fun showing the boys, and it was a great moment when we said, "split this stack in half and you'll see how much it costs just for the rent on this house". They were shocked (as were we, it's not as painful to write a check as it is to see all that actual money we spend each month!).

Going on the show was great. Money may not buy happiness, but it sure buys respect! Since they knew we were carrying a lot of cash, we got to park right at the door of the studio on the Warner Brothers Lot. We hung out in Keith's dressing room, which was right next to Ellen's and Hayden Panettiere's from the TV show Heroes (save the cheerleader, save the world).

I told Keith that the magic trick I'd like to see would be him multiplying the cash into $10,000! He said if he could do that, he wouldn't be appearing at Planet Hollywood, he'd be living the good life somewhere else. We got to watch the rehearsal in the studio, and then they put Michael and I in our own VIP dressing room that was stocked with goodies to watch the live feed of the show. Right before Keith was to go on, the production assistant came to check on us and handed us back the money, saying they opted to do only two of the three tricks he had planned, and the money one got the boot. Bummer! But that, as we know, is show biz. We hung out until the taping was over, and then went to pick up our kids who were spending the afternoon at our friend Amy's house. We brought her back a sweet treat from the goodie basket in the dressing room to say thanks. And then we put that money right back in the bank. By the time you read this, most of it will be on it's way to the good ol' IRS. But it was nice to hold onto it for a couple of days anyway!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Box Tops For Education

This program was started in 1996, and it gives schools in America 10 cents for every little coupon clipped and collected from the top of General Mills and other products. Yes, that's correct. TEN whole cents. For the last two and a half years, I've had a little Ziploc baggie tacked onto the cabinet above our stove. Every time I opened a box or bag of something with one of these little goodies on it, I would clip it and deposit it in the baggie. Occasionally when my Mom visits, she brings her own little collection as well and I dump them in the baggie, too.

Last week a note came home from the boys' elementary school, reminding parents to clip those box tops and bring them in! I pulled off the baggie and decided to count out the coupons and take them over to the school at the end of the day. Can you guess what over two years worth of collection netted?

Twenty four box tops. Which is a whopping $2.40.

Let's hope that some of these other PTA moms are doing more cooking than I do, or else we won't be able to buy mouse pads, let alone new computers! Frankly, I'm more inclined to just hand over some cash than to buy and use the specially marked products.

Your thoughts?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Long Beach

After Saturday's ever so enjoyable Flu Shot experience, we took a little trip to Long Beach.

We went over the Vincent Thomas Bridge which takes you over and through the Port of Los Angeles, one of the world's largest container ship ports (certainly the busiest).


Then we walked through Shoreline Village with it's pastel buildings filled with touristy tee shirts, arcades and candy shops.
We took a stroll along the harbor, which gave us a view of the Queen Mary (right over Nat's head).
Then we saw a show at our friend Ken's theater, All American Melodrama, which you'll hear more about soon.

We watched the sun set over the sailboats docked for the night.
Before coming home, we dined at Famous Dave's BBQ, where we ordered a feast to share that was served on a trash can lid (lined with wax paper of course).
All in all, it was a great day and everyone quickly forgot the trauma of the morning and those needles!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Flu Shots

Ah the annual day of tears, crying, screaming, and a new twist this year: running through the parking lot with Daddy in chase!

Our health insurance provides free flu shots and we take advantage of it. Now before those of you who are anti-vaccine start harping on us, remember we have a child with congenital heart disease and one of the first questions his cardiologist asks is "is he up to date on his immunizations and has he received his flu shot?" For our little guy, a simple cold that ends up with a bacterial ear infection could mean a hospital stay, so we don't mess around. We get all the shots, end of discussion.

I think fear of needles is a learned behavior. Early on, Nathan had a nurse who said "this is going to hurt, a little like a bee sting, don't worry" or something to that affect. Of course he freaked out, who wouldn't with that set up? Benjamin, who had quite a few invasive procedures like heart surgery, being on a respirator, multiple I.V.'s, a
VCUG, and countless blood draws all before he was even four months old, just lived life like getting a shot was something to be tolerated. Certainly not fun, but nothing to get particularly worked up over. He was so good about shots that every nurse who gave him one commented that they had never seen a child like him! What a joy! And then about a year and a half ago I scheduled both boys to have their annual physicals on the same day and time. I thought it would make it easier not to have to go to two appointments- just get it all done at once. I was wrong, so wrong.

Both boys required a shot, and the medical staff though that Nathan, being the "brave" older brother, could go first and then calm the little guy's nerves. Dumb, silly, stupid move. I didn't even think to say anything, I just got prepared for holding Nathan down with the help of two other nurses while a third actually gave the shot. All the while Nathan is screaming and kicking and swearing how he hates all doctors, hospitals, and parents and wishes them all a painful, horrible, awful death. Little Ben sat on the table and watched this and of course when it was time for his shot, he imitated everything that brother had done. And now, when I say we are going to the doctor, Ben's response is to start crying and ask if he has to get a shot.

These are active boys who daily ride skateboards, scooters, and bikes, and experience blood loss and bruising from these activities at least as often as they enjoy them. They love to wrestle and bonk heads and body slam one another, all of which has to hurt far more than a shot would. I'm working on trying point that out, but logic is completely lost on these two. Oh well. We have a string of
CDC recommended vaccines lined up prior to our relocation to Macau, so we'll have lots of practice at trying new and creative ways of breaking them of the screaming and crying habit. Cross your fingers and say a little prayer on our behalf.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Picture Day!

Today was school photo day, which means matching shirts for the boys. I always take a couple of candid snapshots that day to show their height, etc. The formal portraits aren't in for several weeks, but here's some fun pics to look at in the meantime! Of course, these were taken this evening instead of this morning when they looked bright and shiny and new. I suppose this would be their natural state!

Aw! Look at them! Aren't they cute!


Can't you tell just by looking at them how much they love each other? Hey boys! I've got an idea! Why don't you show me how much you love each other! Give each other a big hug for the camera!


Hmmm. Not exactly what I had in mind. Here's hoping the school photos turn out splendid!

Friday, October 17, 2008

The mall was a CIRCUS!

Literally!Mommy: Ben, look it's a circus!
Ben: Oh no!
Mommy: What's the matter? Don't you want to go to the circus?
Ben: No Mommy, they have clowns there.
Mommy: What's wrong with clowns?
Ben: They are scary. They wear makeup. Even the boys.
Well, it's official. We have another generation totally freaked out by clowns. It's a heritage to be proud of.